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Cuomo: All nursing home staff must now be tested twice a week for COVID-19

Nursing homes risk losing their license if they accept a COVID-19 positive patient from a hospital or if they do not test their employees twice a week.

ALBANY, N.Y. — Gov. Andrew Cuomo provided several updates on the coronavirus pandemic from Albany on Sunday morning, including updates regarding nursing home regulations, children with a COVID-related illness, and a potential treatment. 

Cuomo also added that he will give more information regarding the end of the PAUSE order and regional reopening on Monday.

Cuomo says that hospitalizations and intubations are down across the state. He added that new COVID-19 hospitalizations (521) are down to the same amount as the day the state enacted the PAUSE order on March 20.

There were 208 deaths on Saturday across the state from COVID-19.

Nursing homes

New York currently has the 34th highest percentage of COVID-19 deaths in nursing homes.

Cuomo stressed that if nursing homes cannot handle caring for a patient, they are required to transfer the patient to another facility that can, and that the NYS Department of Health can facilitate this transfer. 

Cuomo also announced a new executive order relating to two new rules for nursing homes and adult care facilities. 

First, all nursing home staff must now be tested for COVID-19 twice a week. Nursing homes must report any positive test results to the State Department of Health by the next day, following testing.

According to the Governor's Office, if nursing home employees refuse to be tested, they will be considered to have an outdated or incomplete health assessment, which will prohibit them from working there until they agree to testing.

"That's not just a temperature check, that is a diagnostic test. We have the tests available. We have brought them online. The state has more testing capacity than any state in the country. They have to test their staff twice a week. That is a rule, it's not an, 'I'd appreciate it if you did,' " Cuomo said.

Second, hospitals can only discharge a patient to a nursing home if they test negative for COVID-19. 

Cuomo stated that if any nursing homes do not follow these procedures, they will lose their license.

The Governor's Office stated later in the day that nursing homes or adult care facilities who violate these rules could have their operating license suspended or revoked, and could face a non-compliance penalty of $2,000 a day. 

Cuomo also emphasized that the state has alternative facilities, for both healthy and for COVID-19 nursing home patients.

The state also has a surge capacity of an additional 40,000 hospital beds in addition to their 50,000 bed normal capacity, which they plan to keep operating and will not reduce the 90,000 bed total capacity until at least the end of this year. 

"I have tremendous respect for what they do, but this is the essence of their responsibility and obligation. Again, we have the facilities. We have the beds. It's not like a situation where there are no options," Cuomo said. "We have options and we want to use them. So if there's any reason why you can't provide appropriate care let us know and we will put them in a facility that has it."

Possible inflammatory illness in children

The New York State Department of Health (DOH) is currently investigating up to 85 cases of what may be a COVID-related illness in children. This illness mainly impacts toddlers to elementary school age children. The symptoms are similar to Kawasaki disease and toxic shock-like syndrome. 

Three children have died from this condition so far in New York State. An additional two deaths are currently under investigation.

The DOH is issuing a notice to all states in the country to let them know about this situation.

Potential treatment and reopening

The DOH and Department of Human Services is distributing the treatment Remdesivir, which has been approved for emergency use, throughout the state. The state says the treatment is promising and has been shown to help patients infected with COVID-19 recover quicker. 

Remdesivir, an antiviral, is still considered an experimental medicine and is being tested for its safety and effectiveness. It has not been approved by the FDA.

Cuomo says that New York State is administering the drug to 2,900 people at 15 hospitals. The state is hoping to receive additional doses to treat another 500 people. New York is treating both adults and children with this medicine.

"The CDC has started tests on this drug and New York State is working with HHS, Health and Human Services on the federal side, administering it to 2,900 people at 15 hospitals and we're looking for more doses to start with an additional 500 people.

Cuomo said that in regards to reopening, regions and their residents need to evaluate these two questions:

  1. Does data indicate the spread is under control?
  2. Does a region have their operation in place, including hospital capacity, testing, tracing, isolating and compliance funding?

Federal funding

The governor stated that the state is in a difficult financial situation due to the coronavirus pandemic. The state expects that COVID-19 related expenses will cost an additional $5 billion annually over the next two years.

Cuomo stated that he believes there should be no federal subsidy to any corporation that lays off employees.

He also proposed that there should be a law called "The Americans First Law," where if a corporation does not rehire the same number of employees from before the pandemic, they will not receive government funding.  

Mother's Day

Governor Cuomo had his daughters join him for the press conference, both in-person and over video call, as he video called his mother to wish her a happy Mother's Day.

Credit: Darren McGee - Office of Governor Andrew M. Cuomo
May 10, 2020- Albany, NY- Governor Andrew Cuomo delivers daily COVID-19, Coronavirus press briefing (Darren McGee- Office of Governor Andrew M. Cuomo).

Cuomo emphasized that he will not be visiting his mother in person today so as to not risk any exposure.

Credit: Governor Cuomo

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